Welcome to part 14 of our weekly series on the soul. In the previous couple of weeks we’ve been reading what Dom Vonier wrote about Angels and Guardian Angels and our human souls in relation to them. This week we’ll wrap up with the Angels for now (pages 328-334) and then I have something to share with you about my family’s experiences of many years past. Next week we’ll look at a different book: Fr. Antonio Royo Marín’s Theology of Christian Perfection. All quotes are from Dom Vonier’s book unless otherwise indicated. As always, notes and links will be at the end of the post. Let’s go!
In Chapter XLIX, Guardian Angels, Additional Considerations, Dom Vonier says that Providence, the “guiding vigilance of the Creator over His creature” is “not a direct act of God, but an intermediary act.”
“The direct and immediate executive powers of Providence are the celestial spirits; they are, so to speak, Providence in practice; and therefore they become one of the main factors in the World’s course. We can never give too great prominence to the Scholastic principle that God never does through Himself, what may be achieved through created causality. It would be quite within the spirit of Catholic theology to say that for any result which does not require actually infinite power, God will sooner create a new spiritual being, capable of producing that result, than produce it Himself. Now it is certainly a very remarkable fact that the Fall of man, whatever changes it may have brought about in his relationship to the spiritual World, has not interfered in the least with that close connection of the individual human being with one of the heavenly powers; and no less remarkable is this, that our masters cannot think of any human individual so sunk in evil, as to be forsaken for ever by his Guardian Angel.”
Dom Vonier says St. Thomas says that even the Anti-Christ, who will be “the most criminal of human beings that ever lived” will have a Guardian Angel, and that he will do less harm because of the Angel being there than he would do without him.
“All this goes to show, that we are here face to face with a great moral law of creation, admitting of no exception, universal, unending in its applications and its resourcefulness. It is not the effect of a special Providence, a Providence of privilege ; for whatever was special Providence, was lost through the Fall. It may therefore be safely asserted that man is simply incapable of attaining his spiritual end, without the co-operation of his Guardian Angel ; that co-operation is as absolute a necessity, as are the physical laws that maintain his bodily life.”
“The doctrine of Guardian Angels is not primarily a devotional doctrine, something given purposely to foster piety and spiritual life…It would be the place here to consider the Guardian Angel’s role with man, in the state of innocence; for man in that happy state of perfect moral and intellectual integrity has his Guardian Angel. According to theology, man’s endowments even then were not such as to render superfluous the tutelage of a higher spirit.”
“It might be said, of course, that the Angel was to Adam like a friend making happier the state of happiness; but this is not exactly the mission of the Guardian Angel, who must be essentially a protector against danger, and who, even in the state of primeval integrity, was a necessary help to man, in a province where man alone would not have been equal to the circumstances.”
“St. Thomas, with what I may call great theological candour, simply says, that the protection was necessary even then against the action of the fallen angels.”
“I daresay there is hardly anything in Catholic theology, less popular with the modern mind, than the idea of a perfectly innocent creature, as primeval man is supposed to have been, being surrounded by hosts of spiritual enemies, of much keener natures than his own. How did they come in, is a question that naturally arises; there seems to be a certain unfairness in such a condition.”
“Unfairness of condition there could not be, through the very fact of there being an Angel given to man, to counteract the spirit of darkness. As the state of innocence is the one state God purposely designed for man, all provisions, and graces for the benefit of man are seen, in that state, in their proper proportion and role; therefore, it must be said that whatever new duties the Guardian Angel took on himself, for the sake of man, through the Fall, the natural, congenial, I might almost say, the adequate work or role of the Guardian Angel is to resist the evil spirit that besets man; for such, and such alone was his role in Paradise.”
“This will, of course, lead up to a conclusion which will be rather unexpected for many minds, i. e. that the fallen spirits have, in this world of ours, where man has to live, a naturally impregnable position, and, as it were, a prior reason to be there; for only with that point in view, can we understand the necessity of Angelic protection. Catholic theology has no difficulty in admitting this priority of occupation of the earth, by the fallen spirits; it may be a mystery, but it is not a contradiction to any known laws of right and wrong.”
“We may mention briefly what may be called the Protestant objection to the doctrine of Guardian Angels. It is a part of Protestant mentality to feel worried and annoyed, at what is called ‘the being that stands between man and God’. Why should we depend on the secondary activities of an Angel, and not receive the gift straight from God ? But this objection, if carried to its logical extent, would make Nature itself not only superfluous, but burdensome, because many things do come to us through the workings of Nature which after all it would be in the power of God to distribute directly.”
“The Protestant mind mistakes exclusiveness for immediateness ; it thinks, that man is near to God, because there is nothing but God. The Catholic view, on the contrary, is that the greatest and highest communication of God is communication of Causality. Not only is He the cause of all things and of all good, but He makes His creatures to be, in their respective degrees, causes of things, and causes of good; and in our metaphysics, as well as in our piety, we go by this principle, that the highest creature is also the most powerful creature, and that the more God loves a spiritual being, the more means He gives to that being of doing good to others.”
“That goodness is communicative of itself, is a deep Scholastic principle, and the more goodness there is in a spiritual being, the more it gives of itself. In fact a creature, without its respective powers of causality, most likely implies contradiction.”
I hope you’re finding this series interesting. And I confess to you that I need to go back and read parts of this again. Okay, I need to read most of it again. And I will. At home I’m reading the book straight through but I jumped to the end for the posts here.
And now my promised story about my family’s experience, really, mostly my mom’s experience. And then something I learned from my sister tonight when I texted her about something I couldn’t remember. Here goes.
My dad was working in the basement and there was a storm so he was keeping the door to the backyard shut. (The basement was underground in the front, ground level in the back. Well, it still is. I live in the house now with Miss Lucy Dawg.) He waited until he hadn’t heard thunder for a while, playing it safe, and then opened the door to peak out and check on things.
Just then a bolt of lightning hit a large tree a few yards away (yards as in measurement not as in neighbors’ yards) and bounced off the tree and headed straight for my dad.
He said later that he saw what looked like a tunnel of light coming at him. Then it hit him and he didn’t remember anything else. Apparently he yelped when it struck him, though, because that’s what my mom heard while she was upstairs doing I-don’t-know-what. She poked her head through the door at the top of the stairs and called out to my dad. But he didn’t answer. Called again. Still no answer.
Now, my mom worried when there wasn’t much reason to worry (sorry, Mom, good thing you’re there and I’m here, huh?), so I can see her running down those stairs, expecting the worst. And what she saw had to have frightened her no end. The back door was wide open and my dad was lying on the floor and up against the wall at the far end of the basement opposite the door. That’s at least a good fifteen feet. And he was out. Unconscious.
She couldn’t get him to respond and at this point my mom was surely coming unglued. (I wasn’t there, I was living in another state at the time. In my younger days all I wanted was to get out of Alabama. Now that I’m older and have put down something resembling roots here, I feel differently, but that’s another blog post.) She started calling for someone to help her but there was no one else in the house and the neighbors’ houses, while not terribly far away, are not terribly close, either. But she kept trying to get him to wake up and kept calling for help, too.
Out of nowhere a man appeared at my mother’s side and helped her with my dad. Apparently he called an ambulance. She didn’t call them. This was years before the days of cellphones and she was in the basement, frantic with worry and fear, staying with my dad and yelling for help instead of going upstairs and calling anyone. (There may have been an old style dial telephone or push-button model down there then, or they may have put that in later, I remember it being there at some point, but she said she didn’t call anyone, so that’s that.)
Whoever he was, the gentleman who came to help my mom stayed with her until the ambulance arrived. While the paramedics tended to my dad, the neighbors finally noticed something was going on and began to wander over. My mom looked up and asked the paramedics if they saw the man who had been there helping her and they said, “What man?”
She asked the neighbors if they saw the man who had been there helping her and they all looked around and said, “What man?”
She walked around and looked up and down the street and he was nowhere to be found.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Weird, huh? Well, not if you know about Guardian Angels the way we do now. My mom thought that she had met one that day and I think she did, too. In case you’re wondering, the paramedics did take my dad to the hospital, and he was fine. Amazing, huh? Gets hit by lightning but apparently suffers no ill effects from it. That’s my dad.
And now for what my sister told me tonight of an experience she and her hubby had many years ago when they were newlyweds in New Orleans:
“The heavy lead crystal perfume bottle on a shelf over the toilet in the bathroom flew out the door and crashed into the opposite wall in the hallway as if it had been forcefully thrown by someone or something. It shattered, of course. [Good Lord, all that perfume would’ve been hard on the olfactory senses. (Senses? Sense? Organs? You know what I mean.) I forgot to ask her if it was full.] The top of the toilet tank broke at the same time downward as if someone stood or stomped on it.”
I wouldn’t have been able to use that bathroom for a long time after something like that had happened.
“We were newly married and I had moved into his house. I think something did not like me there. We rented it out and moved shortly thereafter. It was an old (1905) shotgun double in uptown New Orleans. We heard a story that a police officer was shot in the bedroom.”
As I continue my research in the field of mystical phenomena (and the sometimes similar-seeming paranormal phenomena), I’ll have reason to come back to these events and some others I haven’t written about here yet, and I’ll share what I discover with you. I’m building a database and a library for this field in my studies and just got a new (old, used) book last week: Psychical Phenomena, The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism, The Nature of Man. More details below.
Got it in print only because I searched and searched for a PDF or EPUB online and couldn’t find one. Oh, well, $10 for a good cause, that’s acceptable. It’s an old library book discarded by the University of Dayton in Ohio. I’d like to get hold of more books like this. If you hear of any that you think would be of interest, given the stuff I’m rambling on about here, please do drop me a line. I’d like to take a look. :)
Next week, Theology of Christian Perfection. Good stuff! I read that “Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., said this work is even better than his Three Ages of the Interior Life.” Now, that’s a serious compliment!
Thanks for reading. I hope you’re enjoying your visit. Please stay safe and well during this Coronavirus event. You’re on my prayer list, yes, you are. Everyone who stumbles in here accidentally and everyone who came here on purpose—you’re all in my prayers. Please pray for me, too. I need all the help I can get! Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, may the Lord bless you and keep you, and may the peace of Christ be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links: Books mentioned in this post
- The Human Soul and its Relations with Other Spirits, by Dom Anscar Vonier, OSB., Herder, 1913, with Imprimatur, Nihil Obstat. Ignatius Press paperback. Free PDF.
- The Theology of Christian Perfection, Antonio Royo Marìn, O.P., and Jordan Aumann, O.P., The Priory Press, 1962, with Imprimi Potest, Imprimatur. Paperback. Free PDF.
- Psychical Phenomena (The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism, vol. 36. Section 3: The Nature of Man), by Reìginald Omez, O.P., Hawthorn Books, 1958. With Imprimatur, Nihil Obstat.
- The Three Ages of the Interior Life, by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., TAN Books, but I think it was originally Herder.* You can buy a copy at Amazon but they’re expensive. Here’s a link to a search page that gives you various editions and options. There are free PDFs at archive.org but be careful to get all of them. Look toward the end of the list and get the individual files, numbers 12-15, listed there. Those links will take you to the download pages. Excellent stuff. Two volumes in print. I’m so glad I used to work in a Catholic bookstore where I got such things in print at a discount. Woohoo! *I could get up and go dig it out of a box and look. Maybe later I will.
- The Guardian Angel Protecting a Child from the Empire of the Demon, by Domenico Fetti, Wikimedia, public domain.
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